Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Dad put his foot down the day of the hanging. Mother was always concerned about us getting fresh air, and exercising more than our imaginations. Dad, walking in from the garage, after another long day’s work at the hospital, was usually just concerned about obstacles on his path, through the family room, to the stairs leading up to the kitchen, dining, and living room in our split-level house. But the hanging caused him to pause and bark disapproval. Then he resumed his course, as we took down the traitors from the gallows.
It had been a long but foreseeable path to the gallows. Our parents had provided us with all the materials. We had no television to shape our imaginations. Instead, we were surrounded by books. There were family books in common bookshelves. Our bedrooms had bookcases for our very own books and our library books. Then, there were the American Heritage children’s histories, the junior encyclopedia sort of books, and assorted other common books which might have been in the family room (really the children’s rumpus room).
We had a durable, portable record player with our children’s records, mostly LP’s, in the family room. The dark wood stereo cabinet, in the living room, was strictly off limits for years, used for the adults’ records. So, we played records and played games in our own space, out from underfoot of the adults, but not out of Mom’s earshot.
We had a great mix of toys. There were Lincoln Logs, a wonderful, wooden train set, and then there was the big, plywood, three-sided box on wheels. There were also stuffed animals and a few dolls — on which the tale hangs.
Dad made the wheeled plywood box and all the pine blocks that filled it. If memory serves, they would have started as 2x4s. One Christmas, Dad cut, sanded, and rounded off the edges until we had a complete set of building blocks. There were pieces of various lengths, and pieces cut as arches or bridges, with the cut-outs serving as dome roof pieces. We started small, treating each construction source as its own thing, but that was not where it was going to end.
Enter the cast of characters. Mother has always been an amazing seamstress, among her many other talents. She made a calico patch snake. She made a whole set of animals, from a Winnie the Pooh pattern set. There were Kanga and Roo, Winnie, and Eeyore. Among store-bought animals were a smaller kiwi and a lion, about the same size as the kiwi. The lion lost an eye, as will happen with toys children love. So Mom gave him a patch. A lion with an eye patch shortly after 1967? Of course, he was Moshe Lion!
Now, in addition to all the shorter stories, Mother brought Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, into the house. Books were not off limits, once the adults had read them. So, a summer arrived when we were primed with great world-building stories. We had the construction materials. We had the cast of characters.
We built a great castle with battlements. We spun great tales, the tales becoming a saga. Mom would order us outside, with strict orders not to show our faces until supper time. Then it happened. Perhaps some dolls, likely cloth and plastic dolls, had fallen out of favor with their owner IRL. So, in the saga, they became traitors to the realm. We had a proper hanging, as an example to others. Then Dad walked in, from a long day in the pathology lab, to find a slightly pathological scene.
The saga ended shortly thereafter, I think, or maybe it was just the end of summer that disassembled that set of castles in our minds. Our parents gave us the basic tools: materials, engaging books and story records, and the space to imagine. They gave us freedom to imagine, within healthy constants: get fresh air in the real world, and don’t get sucked down into the macabre. Those guidelines are still helpful as adults, whatever form the castles take in our imaginations.